Looking for family fun that can take you to new lows? Go deep! There are a variety of caves around San Antonio, all within a short drive. And you can add bragging rights to your adventure list: the caves around San Antonio include one of only two river-formed caves in the entire country and one of the only examples of an earthquake-formed cave.
With a mix of adventure and education, cave tours are fun for the whole family. You leave knowing a bit more about science and geology as you learn about how caves are formed and you’ll feel a bit like Indiana Jones as you hear about what’s been found in caves. Native American artifacts and mammoth bones are not uncommon finds and you’ll even hear about prehistoric times when Texas was underwater. Some caves you can explore around San Antonio show evidence of ancient sea creatures.
Pro tips for cave exploring:
- Closed-toed shoes are recommended as you’ll often be in damp or wet conditions. And you’ll want shoes with traction to avoid slipping.
- Strollers are not allowed, so little ones need to be able to walk on their own. And they need to be able to understand that they can’t run or touch anything in the caves.
- Many caves don’t have more than one tour per hour, so you may have to wait to tour. Be sure to check the schedule and know what the tour options are ahead of time.
- No food or drinks are allowed in the caves, but most places allow you to bring water with you.
- Summer and winter hours/tour offerings may differ, so always check before you go. But no matter what the temperature is outside, the caves have constant year-round temperatures.
Texas’ oldest cave attraction, Cascade Caverns, has offered tours since 1875. And it’s just a short drive West on 1-10 in Boerne. With tours every hour, you can go 230 feet down and see the home of tri-color bats and the Cascade Caverns salamander. They’ve discovered bison, mastodon, and saber-toothed tiger fossils in the cave. The cavern’s formations are 95% active due to continued flow of water and you can see a 50-ft. waterfall. You can even get a group together and do a flashlight tour.
Cave Without a Name
No, that’s not a joke. Another Boerne option is Cave Without a Name, a natural national landmark whose no-name name was the winner of a contest. A young boy’s entry explained that the cave was too pretty to have a name and “Cave Without a Name” stuck. Six major rooms are available to tour and you’ll see an underground brook that is crystal clear. The cave features concerts, so check the calendar and enjoy a unique musical experience.
Caverns of Sonora
The longest drive from San Antonio, the world-renowned Caverns of Sonora are located on a working ranch off of I-10 in Sonora, Texas, about 2.5 hours from San Antonio. Recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves on the planet, the cave is 98% actively growing, so every drip of water is slowly growing its beauty. Tours have 12 or fewer people at a time, making it a more intimate experience than some other cave tours. They last up to two hours and cover a little less than two miles underground. Picnic tables (and campgrounds) are available and don’t be surprised if you see ranch animals or deer roaming above ground.
Inner Space Cavern
North of Austin in Georgetown is Inner Space Cavern, an easy stop just off of I-35. The cave was discovered by a Texas Highway Department drilling team in 1963 when they were testing to see if the ground could support a highway overpass. Now when you tour the cave, you’re walking under the interstate to explore more than 7,000 feet of underground wonder. Inner Space features a playground onsite and a fun zipline, adding to a family day of play.
Longhorn Cavern State Park
About an hour and a half from San Antonio, Longhorn Cavern State Park features one of only two river-formed caves in the entire United States. That means the cave was formed by the dissolving and cutting section of an ancient river. That rushing water over time is reflected in the cave walls and features that are unlike any you’ll see in the other caves. You might see a few tri-color bats hanging in the cave. Considered the “National Cave of Texas,” it was developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and there are structures above ground that showcase that historic construction. Pro tip: A road trip here offers an excuse to stop at Bluebonnet Café in Marble Falls for unforgettable pie.
Natural Bridge Caverns
The easiest cave hop near San Antonio is Natural Bridge Caverns, where you can have fun both under and above ground. Go 180 feet below ground to enjoy the fantastic show cavern and see amazing formations. On the surface, you can zip line, enjoy a ropes course, find your way through a maze, and more. In May and June, you can tour the cave and see the Bracken Bats, and during the holidays, there’s caroling and more to enjoy. (Side note: While you can’t go into the Bracken cave, you can check out the Bracken Bats without a cave visit.)
Wonder World Cave
In San Marcos, you can explore Wonder World Cave and Adventure Park, featuring the Balcones Fault Line Cave. It’s the only true example of an earthquake-formed cave open for viewing and different from the other caves you’ll see in Texas. You can see past geological eras in the layers of the cave, as well as fossilized prehistoric life encased in the strata formations. You can then exit by the “Stratavator” and go into the Tejas Observation Tower, giving you a fantastic view of the Hill Country. Back on the ground, you can ride under a waterfall and go through a wildlife petting park and explore an anti-gravity house where everything is backward: Even water flows uphill.